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Ashcroft to Speak in O.C.

Religion: U.S. attorney general will appear at Sunday services in Crystal Cathedral.

July 18, 2001|WILLIAM LOBDELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, whose conservative Christian views threatened his confirmation by the Senate this year, will speak at worship services Sunday at the Crystal Cathedral.

At the 9:30 and 11 a.m. services, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller will interview the former U.S. senator from Missouri on "his personal story of faith and family." The exchange also will be broadcast on "The Hour of Power," Schuller's worldwide Sunday television show.

Ashcroft, the son of a Pentecostal preacher, will make the trip to Southern California on his personal time, a church spokesperson said.

The Crystal Cathedral will be at least the second congregation Ashcroft has stood before this month. Early in July, he delivered a Scripture-laced speech to nearly 4,000 in Des Moines.

"I appreciate a president who welcomes the prayers," he told the audience, according to newspaper accounts.

Since taking office, Ashcroft has been closely watched by critics who fear that he will inject religious views inappropriately into public life. The attorney general has come under fire for holding prayer meetings for interested staff members.

"His vision of Christianity is a bit perplexing to me," said professor Marvin Meyer, chairman of religious studies at Chapman University. "It could be a good show [at the Crystal Cathedral], but I'm going to miss it."

Ken Masugi of the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank, says Ashcroft provides a good example of balancing public life and personal faith views.

"While America separates church and state, that virtually demands the involvement of religious people in politics," said Masugi, director for the Center for Local Government at the institute. "There's no contradictions between the two principles."

In the last few years, guest speakers at the Crystal Cathedral have included former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, an atheist, NBA all-star Dikembe Mutombo and CNN talk show host Larry King.

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